I'm considering either scoping or becoming a court reporter. I'd appreciate any input as I make my decision.

If you're thinking about whether to be a scopist or a court reporter, just keep in mind that to become a court reporter starting from zero words per minute on the Stenograph is going to take you AT LEAST 3 years to accomplish, and that's a conservative estimate. That's also attending a real live school that you attend 5 days a week without fail. Ok, maybe you could do it in two years and change if you really practice a LOT. If you just practice during the time you're attending class and don't practice at home, then it's going to be 3-4 years MINIMUM, plus you've got to be able to learn the legal and medical and all the other academics. Don't let anyone tell you you can do it in less time. They're just not being honest with you.

Whether you attend an online or live class really doesn't matter if you can pass the state test. Once you pass the state test, the state says you're a certified court reporter, so it doesn't really matter where you got your education. This is one of those fields you can't float through like you could with a regular college course. Why do you think there's such a huge dropout rate? Either you can get the testimony or you can't: simple as that. You figure it out REAL quick once you sit in your first deposition ;-O

Important thing here to keep in mind about being a CR is the practice. It's ENDLESS: I repeat: ENDLESS. As long as you know that going in, fine. You have to literally take the machine to bed with you if you want to finish the program in a reasonable amount of time. I'd venture to say that there's some people out there in the online courses -- some, mind you -- that are still practicing away and have been there for over five or six years. They'll never admit it, but I'm sure they exist. My dad was a CR so I knew what I was getting into. My wife that I met in CR school had been there for a good 5 years before I waltzed in and she and I finally got through to her and her friends to practice more and we all got out after about 2 1/2 years after I started. She was so pissed as I caught up, but I practiced constantly and got them going, too. So attending a school is better for the camaraderie than an online program. I'll give it that.
I started out in CR school and discovered scoping there. I started scoping while in school. Due to financial reasons, I had to quit school and work full time. After a few years of working in the corporate world, I decided to scope full time. Scariest decision of my life.

I'm ready to enroll in CR school again and finally finish this time. I will continue to scope full time while in school. I love scoping because of the fact that I'm my own boss, can somewhat set my own hours and work in my pajamas; however, I'm going ahead with more CR studies because, first and foremost, I need to earn more money. Secondly, because I feel I'll be an excellent reporter. Thirdly, because I started it and won't be able to live with myself if I don't finish.

You mentioned money, so I'm going to assume that's one of the major key factors in your decision. In either profession, the amount of money you can earn depends upon how good you are and how much you want to work. I will tell you that I work basically nonstop, including nights and weekends, until I hit a slow spot around December - February and I make less than $30,000 per year. You may be able to surpass that if you get a few daily copy trials or something, but for the most part, I think I'm correct in stating that my income is pretty much in line with everyone else's.

Reporting is a different story. I know a reporter that works about two days per week and makes around $45,000 per year, and that's after she pays the scopist. It all depends upon how much you want to work, how fast you can turn your transcripts around and the number of pages you get. I know another reporter who works four to five days per week, usually all-day depos and billed out over $17,000 in one month. That's, of course, before paying the scoping and any expenses she incurred, but you can see how the income can vary.

From my perspective, scoping is great if it's not the only income you depend on; one huge reason for my going forward with CR school. When you hit the slow times, you just have no idea how much money is coming in or when it's coming in. Credit suffers greatly. If you have a husband or significant other whose income can meet the bills during your slow times, that's perfect

A few questions you must ask yourself are:

How much time can I devote to schooling?

Approximately nine months to one year for scoping; CR is approximately three to four years or more.

Do I have the means necessary to acquire the equipment needed?

This all depends on whether you're buying used or new, but the cost is significant in either profession.

Do I have the discipline to be my own boss? How do you handle distractions? Stress?

Am I willing to sacrifice precious time with my family and friends to devote time to study, study and more study?

How much time you devote to study and practicing on your steno machine, I feel, contributes greatly the amount of time needed to build speed and get certified.

If you're really interested in CR school and think it may be for you, there's no reason you can't do both. You could go to CR school to learn steno and transcript preparation, acquire your equipment, scope while attending CR school.
I reread your post again and I think you have a basic decision to make here that will help clear things up. Do you want to work from home or do you want to get dressed up and haul equipment out to various locations so that you can make X amount more money?

Unless money is the deciding factor, and hopefully it's not, try to picture yourself doing one, then the other, of both of these things. Do you like to work in your PJs very early/late when everyone else in the house is sleeping? Do you like to be out and about and mingling with attorneys and listening to what the witnesses have to say? (Granted, after a while you quit "hearing" what's said. ) What would make you happy? Or maybe you'd rather be an official and record courtroom proceedings all day and be paid a salary (in most places) and have some/all transcripts ordered?

Scoping is the far better world for me because I am in hog heaven working from home, running errands at 2:00 in the afternoon, not ever having to wear high heels again (well, on the job anyway), enjoying the company of my four parrots and dog throughout the day, and doing things during that day I just can't do at any other kind of job - like an occasional nap or go to an aerobics class or run the car over for whatever it needs next, etc., etc. Plus, I really like the work. While I think I could become a fast writer if I went to CR school, I simply wouldn't want to sit there taking every single word for hours and hours. I don't like to sit still that long! I'd rather be getting a fresh cup of coffee/glass of ice tea, you name it, anything rather than sit still where it's up to someone else when we break, when we eat, when we go home.

But everyone has different priorities to be happy day in and day out. Identifying yours will help you make the right career decision. :)
Just wanted to put my two cents in since I have done both. I really did love scoping, but it did seem that I was always working and for far less money. I was also having to get out different reporter's files and see how they wanted it done, punctuation and their preferences, and keeping that all straight was hard. Now I do not have to even thing about it. I do it MY WAY.

Also, I absolutely love the machine. It is fun and challenging. No, you never get to the point where you are not listening if you are a good reporter because if you do, you will not get everything correctly. You have to not only hear but understand the context to make a good verbatim record.

Anyway, I am just one of those unusual reporters who loves her job and loves the money too!! Of course, I do depos and have a lot of freedom to work or not work. There is plenty of PJ days still too when I am doing my own transcripts so I did have to give that up either.
I have a little input to add, and that would be the emotional aspect of CR. I studied, hard, for two and a half years, wrote at 225 wpm and was ready to take my test and begin my career. I had the good fortune of having a friend who was a reporter and allowed me to sit in on many hearings and deps. I was appauled and sickened by what I heard. I found myself sobbing for a woman who wanted a divorce because she didn't have another bone in her face to give to her spouse who beat her for not getting the right kind of cat food. I nearly vomited when I listened in on the incest/rape case of a NINE MONTH OLD little, baby girl.

My friend told me that I would eventually harden to that. I wouldn't feel or hear that after time. I felt that I wouldn't be able to harden. I wanted to feel the anger and the digust that I felt. I didn't want to "numb" out to the injustices that go on around me. So, I took the two and half years of education, along with my machine, and became a REALLY GOOD secretary, and eventually became an executive secretary. I worked, as such, for 20+ years. And now, for the reasons all of you tout, I am coming back to my training, plan to use my knowledge of reporting (It's like riding a bike! I still remember my theory from 22 years ago!)and all of the training and special courses I have taken over the years and put it to use as a Scopist. I know I will love it and will do very well. I am so excited to get started. I have a couple more weeks left of "corporate USA" and then I can get started.

I hope maybe I have given you another little insight into CR. All of my very best friends in the world are reporters -- they love it! For me, it was a bit much. To each his own -- how wonderful we are able to have choices, no?
Your experience (above) mirrored mine, only mine was in juvenile court when I first started reporting in Sacramento. I couldn't go back. That agency did a lot of pro tem court work and that's when I developed my intense dislike for reporting in a courtroom. When I moved to San Francisco I was fortunate to work with a firm that handled almost all business litigation. No divorces, almost no personal injury. If I hadn't moved and fallen into that situation (it was blind luck), I would not have continued reporting. After several years when I moved back to Sacramento and returned to the usual mix, I quite honestly hated it. It's why I got out of reporting as soon as I could.
As mentioned in the other posts, CR school is a tough road. I knew many who got to the end and quit. In the group that started with me, also only about 10 percent or less ended up making it to the end and getting their license. Then a couple of those quit after reporting for a few years. So that's a reality you have to be aware of.

On the plus side, regarding the income, in my first nine months out of school, I made $63,000. That was being a newbie and not working every day. Your income will vary depending on the amount you want to work, what kind of jobs you routinely receive, your time commitments at home, et cetera.

It's a great job if you have the stamina for it, and I would encourage you if you think you want to go for it. On the other hand, I found it quite stressful as a mother of two small children to keep up with the demands of the job. Now, as the mother of four, I find scoping more practical.

Regarding what kind of jobs you'll get and what you need to be a good CR, I agree with the other posts. You have to be persistent and take the academics in school seriously.

Another good suggestion is to scope while in CR school. I did it and found it invaluable. I later worked for the same agency owner/reporter as a new reporter myself, and now, 15+ years later, I'm scoping for that same reporter again. In addition, I'm also now scoping for a girl that went to school with me but graduated after me, which is working out great.
Here is my take on your query. I worked as a freelance court reporter for 13 years until I had a baby last fall. The payoff of enduring court reporting school is great once you get out and get certified, if you live in a state that requires that. The money is good, but the stress is high. I started school in '88 with a class of 32, but when I graduated, there was only four other people from my class that were still there. How quick you get out depends on how much work you're willing to put into it, how much you're willing to practice, and how much stress you can handle. The stress in school is great as well, but it's not as high as when you get out in the field. Not every day is stressful, but there are times when you take an all-day job and they want the transcript in their hands by the next day. Or you get in a deposition and everyone is talking at the speed of light. That's where the stress really comes in, especially since you have to make a verbatim record. My suggestion to you if you do become a court reporter is once you graduate, do your own scoping for a year or so and then get a scopist. I did not do that. I did all of my own scoping and proofreading. That wasn't the best choice I ever made, but at the time, I thought I needed to do it all. That can really push you to burn out fast, which is not uncommon.

One thing I will suggest is that if you train to be a court reporter, you don't have to work specifically in court or at depositions. The demand is great for broadcast captioners and CART reporters. You know when a show is closed-captioned? Well, that's a court reporter sitting either in a studio or at home captioning what everyone is saying. By a certain year (I'm not sure what year, but it's coming up fast), all companies are going to have to have all of their programs captioned. It's a part of the ADA. They're now training students specifically to fill this need. There is extensive training, but after that, you do have the ability to work from home. If you're interested, take a look at That's one of the big captioning companies. It will give you lots of info.

CART reporters work directly with deaf and hard-of-hearing folks. This might include going to school with a student and setting up your computer and machine to write for him what goes on in class, or you might write a conference for someone or realtime a church service. I haven't tried CART, but I know people who have and they say the reward is great.

To me, the decision to quit reporting to stay home with my daughter was the best decision I ever made. While I was pregnant, I was always told that as a reporter, I have the best job in order to have a family. Well, I can see that point of view, but at the same time, you can depend on what time a depo starts, but you can't depend on when it ends. That would make it difficult to schedule your life around. Nevermind the fact that you might have that 250-page rush come along at an inopportune time. They usually try to tell you you'll be taking a rush, but 99 percent of the time, you'll get to a depo and THEN find out it's a rush. Now that I'm scoping, I feel much less stress. I enjoy the reporters that I work for, and it's so nice to not have to deal with the stress factor anymore.

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